Our dear family and friends. We hope and pray that this message finds you and your families well and happy. However, based on the title of this particular blog, some of you have experienced a death in your family or with a friend. For this, we express our deepest sorrows and sympathies. And also our testimonies that because of Jesus Christ all is not lost, this will only be a temporary separation. As hard as it might be. He will eventually heal your hurting heart and bring peace to your soul. If you will let him.
Late yesterday evening I received a text message that a man who grew up basically next door. Our backyards touch each other. Had passed. This was unexpected. He was a neighbor during all his growing years, a friend, at one point he even worked for me at our place of employment. In fact, he is the one who gave me the lead for that job. He was a veteran, he served in the Marines, and for many years held marksmanship records with his skill with guns.
Now I mention him for many reasons, but at this time his children need some help. He was self-employed for many many years. Thus, like so many of us, he had not prepared for this day. He has no life insurance and of course many debts. His children and I are asking if any of you are in a position to help with the funeral expenses please Venmo what you can to the link that I will have posted in this blog.
Throughout my adult life, I have had the humbling experience of conducting funerals. Both for members of the church, for family members, for friends, and for family members who are not members of the church.
For some of these their perception of losing their loved ones was a tragedy. For most with a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and knowledge and belief in HIS Atonement, Crucifixion, and Resurrection they actually view death as a miracle.
A couple of personal examples. I was asked to conduct a couple of funerals in Indiana for some family members of my wife. They were not members of the church. They had a very small knowledge of our beliefs. At one of the funerals, Debbie was not able to travel with me. I not only conducted the funeral but was the funeral. No one was comfortable offering a prayer. No one wanted to provide any music, to speak to do anything but attend and listen. So, I did all the above by myself. Was I self-conscious absolutely? I feared that they might think I was trying to shine a light on myself instead of the loved one who had passed or the message of the plan of salvation I tried to deliver.
As I was speaking I was somewhat amazed. I knew of at least 2 pastors in attendance who were relatives. As I tried to teach the plan of salvation, their heads and the heads of most of those in attendance nodded up and down in agreement. Yet, I knew that they did not teach this in their congregations or in their beliefs.
The spirit testified to me that the Holy Ghost was helping them to remember what they already learned in the preexistence. For that is what revelation is. We remembering what we already have learned. It was a very humbling and enlightening experience. In the end, most all who were in attendance came up to me and expressed their gratitude including the pastors. No negative remarks only profound gratitude.
About 6 years ago my Father spent his last few weeks living with us. The combination of age and prostate cancer answered the call for him to go home. It was hard to have him leave, but it was such a blessing to know he was done suffering in his mortal body. He now went home to a great reunion with his ancestors who had passed. But more importantly to meet with his Heavenly Parents and Jesus Christ as he was welcomed home.
Then about 5 years ago my dear daughter Brittany was released from her heavily diseased body full of ALS and sent home. Often during the previous 18 months to 2 years, I had the great privilege to pronounce priesthood blessing. Almost every blessing given the spirit would dictate that the Lord had a great and marvelous miracle for her. And counseled that each of us be patience and we would witness this great miracle.
One of the blessings Brittany was promised was that she would still be able to talk to us clear up to the end. Although it took a microphone and speaker to accomplish this she was able to witness the fulfillment of this promise. When it was her time to go as we each bent down to give her a last hug and express our love for her she was able to whisper to each of us one at a time I love you.
Moments later she was released from the torment of her earthly body. At that very moment, the Lord showed to me by the spirit that her going home was the greatest of all the miracles HE could give her and us. I will always be so grateful for this.
And then about a year later my dear mother came to stay with us until she too was called home. She was calm and kind clear to the end. What a great privilege it was for Debbie and me to have them in our home.
And at this time my dear wife's mother is here with us also until that day, month or year when she too receives this wonderful miracle of being released from her worn-out body and sent home. It will be such a marvelous reunion for her. It will be a sad yet wonderful day for us who are left.
We invite you to read and listen further
During the April 1972 general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, former Apostle Bruce R. McConkie shared a stirring, personal talk titled "The Testimony of Jesus." In his address, he revealed his personal witness of Christ and shared a poem he wrote, titled “I Believe in Christ.” Before sharing the poem he stated the following:
I shall take the liberty, both by way of testimony and to set the tone for what is involved, to read these words of my own composition:
I Believe in Christ
I believe in Christ, he is my king; With all my heart to him I'll sing; I'll raise my voice in praise and joy, In grand amens my tongue employ.
I believe in Christ, he is God's Son; On earth to dwell his soul did come; He healed the sick, the dead he raised, Good works were his, his name be praised
I believe in Christ, O blessed name, As Mary's Son he came to reign 'Mid mortal men, his earthly kin, To save them from the woes of sin.
I believe in Christ, who marked the path, Who did gain all his Father hath, Who said to men: "Come, follow me, That ye, my friends, with God may be."
I believe in Christ—my Lord, my God— My feet he plants on gospel sod; I'll worship him with all my might; He is the source of truth and light.
I believe in Christ, he ransoms me; From Satan's grasp he sets me free, And I shall live with joy and love In his eternal courts above.
I believe in Christ, he stands supreme; From him I'll gain my fondest dream; And while I strive through grief and pain, His voice is heard: "Ye shall obtain."
I believe in Christ; so come what may, With him I'll stand in that great day When on this earth he comes again, To rule among the sons of men
McConkie delivered his final general conference address, "The Purifying Power of Gethsemane," in April 1985. In that very conference, his poem “I Believe in Christ” debuted as a new hymn, performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The music was composed by Tabernacle organist John Longhurst. This would be McConkie’s final conference, as he passed away 13 days later.
His hymn lives on and was included in the 1985 hymnbook, which is still in use today. Below is the Choir performing “I Believe in Christ,” arranged by the Choir’s music director, Mack Wilberg.
This past week I had another friend and neighbor pass. He lost his good wife about 13 years ago. A giant of a man. Always so kind and so helpful to others. For the past year or so especially he would often express he was ready to go home. He wanted to hold his wife in his arms again. A miracle or a Tragedy. You decide.
I suppose if one does not have the knowledge and a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, death is probably perceived as a tragedy. We testify, that even then. Over time the Savior Jesus Christ will heal the wounded heart.
For those of us blessed with testimonies of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And even more so for those who have taken upon themselves sacred covenants in the Temple of God. Promises are made by our Heavenly Father. If we will live up to those covenants the promises that we make to Him. He in turn promises Eternal Life with our family members. Meaning we will return and live as a family unit in his Celestial Kingdom. But, if we fail to live up to our end of the promise. Then we have no promise from him.
I worry when I witness others deliberately for whatever reason ignore, neglect, or willfully turn from their covenants. This life is a time to prepare to meet God. None of us know when our time will run out. Is it worth the chance to not have it all in order when we are called home? We hope and pray that the spirit will touch your heart if need be to set your lives in order. This goes for us as well. None are perfect, we (I) too much so much to change and repent of. I pray that I am doing it fast enough.
We love each of you. We testify that God does live. Our Heavenly Parents and Jesus Christ love each of you. It does not matter what you have or haven't done in your life thus far. They love you and desire for you to have happiness and joy in your life. Now and for the eternities. We do have a prophet on the earth today.
President Russel M. Nelson. Is he perfect? Does he ever make mistakes? Yes, he is a man just like us. But, he will never purposefully try to lead anyone away from Jesus Christ. He does all in his abilities to lead us to Christ.
Of these things, we testify in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.